Breast Implant Illness: What You Need To Know

Silicone breast implants
MELANIE SCHWARZ

MELANIE SCHWARZ

Melanie Schwarz is a registered nurse who works closely with each of our patients to provide the quality treatment they deserve for optimal results.

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There has been a lot of talk in the industry and press recently about breast implants. The FDA banned a specific type of breast implant (BioCell textured by Allergan) last month because of it’s connection to a very rare form of cancer that grows in the scar tissue known as Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Breast implant illness is not linked to this cancer and is something separate that has come up in conversations within the cosmetic surgery industry and on mainstream news and social media. It is not something that has been recognized as a medical condition. Therefore, it is difficult to quantify and show statistics on. But there are significant voices on social media of women who are suffering from similar symptoms and are self-identifying with this term. 

What we would like to do here is education you on what breast implant illness is and reassure those of you considering getting a breast augmentation that your safety and health is the first priority of Dr. Chang at Aesthetica Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center. 

What Is Breast Implant Illness?

Women who self-identify as having breast implant illness report a variety of symptoms post-breast augmentation. These symptoms include: Fatigue, hair loss, chest pain, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, photosensitivity, rashes, headaches, autoimmune issues and hormonal concerns.

They say their breast implant illness symptoms have affected their lifestyle, jobs, and relationships. The symptoms often don’t go away and can worsen over time.

Though breast implant illness is not a recognized “illness,” the increase in reporting of  these symptoms and women speaking out about their experiences via social media has increased awareness. Facebook pages dedicated to breast implant illness have over 50,000 members, and they have been very proactive in getting their voices heard at FDA public meetings.

Current Trends in Breast Augmentation

What Does Current Research Say About Breast Implant Illness?

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Safety of Siliconecreated a review looking into the associations between breast implants and various diseases. The results concluded there was no clear, demonstrable link between silicone implants and any systemic illness.

The FDA has requested many times (specifically in the 2000s) for new research to be conducted on  the safety of silicone implants. In 2006, the FDA approved silicone gel implants and noted they were “reasonably” safe for women over 22 years old. They did request continuous monitoring from the implant makers of women who had their implants fitted and specifically of women who had implants older than 10 years.

Breast implants have adapted and changed since then: new companies have new products with different fillings and style of gels. Some of the reviews and research hasn’t been made public and other research is tainted or the number of women involved too small to really quantify the results correctly.

A very small number of studies have been conducted to look into health issues and breast implants. Annals of Internal Medicine reviewed the results of 32 studies looking into the health outcomes of women with and without breast implants. There were no significant associations between silicone gel implants and long term health issues.

At present, insufficient data exists to identify breast implant illness as an illness caused specifically by breast implants alone. To date, the studies and reviews suggest there is no link between implants and the symptoms reported above.

breast-augmentation-silicone-saline

What Could Be Causing These Symptoms?

Though breast implant illness has not been officially classified by doctors and the FDA, the symptoms are real to many women. Doctors have debated over what could be causing these symptoms. Could it be due to the body rejecting the foreign object? Maybe the woman’s body is reacting to the material that makes up the implant?  More studies are needed to help determine the answer.

What Should You Do About Breast Augmentation?

When you read about the number of women coming forward with the same set of symptoms, it is easy to question if breast implants are safe. In 2018, nearly 314,000 women in the US alone had breast augmentation surgery either for cosmetic reasons or for breast reconstruction after surgery. Add that up over a decade, and you are well into the millions. Though it certainly should not be ignored, the number of women presenting with these symptoms is still a very small fraction of these numbers.

Any surgical procedure carries a small amount of risk, and it is important that you research thoroughly before undergoing any cosmetic surgery. Choose an experienced, licensed plastic surgeon who has performed many successful breast implant surgeries and has great reviews from patients. Ask lots of questions about the implants they use and research the companies and safety records if you are unsure. Be prepared, and know what will be happening during the surgery and take care of yourself in the recovery period.

Silicone implants on hand and natural brest

When To Speak to Your Doctor

If you start to develop symptoms mentioned above or any of the following:

  • Wrinkling
  • Breast Pain, especially when connected with a fever
  • Capsular Contracture – when scar tissue grows around the implant and causes pain
  • Rupture – if the implant is leaking

Call your surgeon! They will examine you and help advise you on next steps. They may advise you to have the old implant removed and a new one inserted. It may not require surgery so it is important to seek them out and get a medical opinion.

Schedule a free consultation

If you are concerned about anything you have read here in relation to a breast augmentation you have had or would like to have, we invite you to simply come in for a complimentary consultation with Dr. Chang or one of the cosmetic laser and injection nurses to check your implants and talk next steps with you. Dr. Chang has always aimed to help women not only look their best, but also pursue their best selves in a way that is safe and effective.

Contact us online or at 703-729-5553 to arrange an appointment. Dr. Phillip Chang is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Northern Virginia near Leesburg, Virginia and an expert in a wide variety of cosmetic treatments.

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